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The Framus String Band

Our company historian reports...

The Framus String Band

Back in the 50s and 60s, there was a band that would regularly make headlines for Framus; be it in the Berliner Sportpalast, the renowned clubs of the West German cities, or as rhythm section for Peter Kraus or Freddy Quinn: the Framus String Band was a household name.

The guitarist was none other than the West German artist Willi Stich alias Billy Lorento alias Bill Lawrence, who was known through radio and television at that time. Born in Köln, he met Framus’ boss Fred Wilfer through Charly Oehl’s music store in 1953 because he was looking for a “good sounding” electric guitar.

Bill Lawrence, who nowadays builds pickups in the L.A. area, tells us the story: “Fred visited Charly in Köln, because he was a Framus customer… and one night Charly introduced me to Fred Wilfer at the club I was playing, …we had a short conversation and Fred said to me: ‘Come on down to Bubenreuth, we’ll build the guitar for you’. And so it started”. Later Framus designed the first Billy Lorento guitar together with Billy and it was sent to production in Bubenreuth as model 5/120.

Shortly thereafter, from the members of the band “Bill Bell and his Rockets”, the Framus String Band was formed, with Billy Lorento on guitar, Herbert Gottschalk on bass, Heinz Reinhardt on steel guitar, and Helmut Ziegler on drums. Framus’ boss Fred Wilfer took over the sponsoring duties.

Helmut Ziegler, who nowadays owns an antique shop in Nürnberg, remembers those great old times with the Framus String band: “On one hand we had Fred Wilfer the business man, but on the other we also had Fred taking care of us like we were his own kids…We would get the instruments for free, he provided the clothes, and he even had us recorded on vinyl…” Ziegler, together with the Swiss drummer Eugen Giannini, then advised the Framus builders on the creation of a drum division. Framus was now not only a guitar company; it also began to build drums with the name “Giannini by Framus”.

Born in Mainz, Heinz Reinhardt visited the Bubenreuth instrument factory quite often. Thanks to his own experimentation with steel guitars, he knew quite a bit about their construction and therefore helped Framus develop Hawaiian guitars and later on also steel guitars.

During all these years with the Framus String Band, the musicians contributed many times with improvement ideas for the Framus instruments, thus giving the company an edge against the competition who seemed to be often a step behind.

By the way, the fourth member, bass player Herbert Gottschalk, is living in Sweden now. Anybody with information about him, please contact Christian Hoyer by phone at 09131-21796 or through e-mail at c.hoyer@warwick.de.

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